The Toronto Sisters - The Abbey of the Divine Wood
Photo ©Richard RhymeA leading-edge order of queer nuns who have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.
Mary Juanita High of The Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence
QUEER CONEY ISLAND
In the early-twentieth century, Coney Island was a popular destination for all working-class New Yorkers, and gay men were no exception. Nightclubs regularly featured female impersonators, the beach and its nearby bath houses were popular cruising spots, and sex was also regularly purchased at Coney Island.
The Washington Baths was clearly one of these gay sites, for in 1929 a male beauty contest staged there took a very queer turn. As George Chauncey writes in Gay New York, “most of the people who gathered to watch the competition were men” and “most of the men participating in the contest wore paint and powder.” A journalist reported, one “pretty guy pranced before the camera and threw kisses to the audience,” and “one man came in dressed as a woman.” Others had mascara on their eyelashes. “The problem,” as the reporter put it tongue-in-cheek, “became that of picking a male beaut who wasn’t a floosie no matter how he looked.” In essence, “on a packed summer hot afternoon, gay men had taken over a male beauty contest, becoming its audience, its contestants, and its stars.”
Bert Savoy (see above image) was a popular female impersonator who starred for many years in a vaudeville show entitled Greenwich Village Follies. However, in 1923, according to Harpo Marx, Savoy ”drowned off Coney Island after being struck by lightening, and the next day a New York columnist had written an obituary for him in the form of a love letter. Also on the following day, so the legend goes, all the pansies at Coney Island were wearing lightening rods.”
Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad
by Jerry Lisker [ July 6, 1969 ]
She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.
Last weekend the queens had turned commandos and stood bra strap to bra strap against an invasion of the helmeted Tactical Patrol Force. The elite police squad had shut down one of their private gay clubs, the Stonewall Inn at 57 Christopher St., in the heart of a three-block homosexual community in Greenwich Village. Queen Power reared its bleached blonde head in revolt. New York City experienced its first homosexual riot. “We may have lost the battle, sweets, but the war is far from over,” lisped an unofficial lady-in-waiting from the court of the Queens.
“We’ve had all we can take from the Gestapo,” the spokesman, or spokeswoman, continued. “We’re putting our foot down once and for all.” The foot wore a spiked heel. According to reports, the Stonewall Inn, a two-story structure with a sand painted brick and opaque glass facade, was a mecca for the homosexual element in the village who wanted nothing but a private little place where they could congregate, drink, dance and do whatever little girls do when they get together.
Girls. Lisping. Queens. Bleached blonde revolt. The mocking, denigrating descriptions carried throughout the article:
Last Friday the privacy of the Stonewall was invaded by police from the First Division. It was a raid. They had a warrant. After two years, police said they had been informed that liquor was being served on the premises. Since the Stonewall was without a license, the place was being closed. It was the law.
All hell broke loose when the police entered the Stonewall. The girls instinctively reached for each other. Others stood frozen, locked in an embrace of fear.
Only a handful of police were on hand for the initial landing in the homosexual beachhead. They ushered the patrons out onto Christopher Street, just off Sheridan Square. A crowd had formed in front of the Stonewall and the customers were greeted with cheers of encouragement from the gallery.
The whole proceeding took on the aura of a homosexual Academy Awards Night. The Queens pranced out to the street blowing kisses and waving to the crowd. A beauty of a specimen named Stella wailed uncontrollably while being led to the sidewalk in front of the Stonewall by a cop. She later confessed that she didn’t protest the manhandling by the officer, it was just that her hair was in curlers and she was afraid her new beau might be in the crowd and spot her. She didn’t want him to see her this way, she wept.
The crowd began to get out of hand, eye witnesses said. Then, without warning, Queen Power exploded with all the fury of a gay atomic bomb. Queens, princesses and ladies-in-waiting began hurling anything they could get their polished, manicured fingernails on. Bobby pins, compacts, curlers, lipstick tubes and other femme fatale missiles were flying in the direction of the cops. The war was on. The lilies of the valley had become carnivorous jungle plants.
The Village Voice, which was supposed to be the more liberal, counter-cultural paper, was only somewhat more considerate in its choice of language when its coverage hit the streets three days earlier. But at least the Voice’s Lucian Truscott IV was able to capture the riot’s importance: “The forces of faggotry, spurred by a Friday night raid on one of the city’s largest, most popular, and longest lived gay bars, the Stonewall Inn, rallied Saturday night in an unprecedented protest against the raid and continued Sunday night to assert presence, possibility, and pride until the early hours of Monday morning.” Disrespectful language aside, Truscott’s account would become the story of record, while Lisker’s article would be forever remembered for the kind of universal contempt directed toward gay people that gave rise to the rebellion in the first place. Lisker went on to become the sports reporter for the Daily News, New York Post, and Fox Sports. He died in 1993.